Nov 01

Well, dang, a post about the blues!

Well, it seems like I’ve written about everything except the blues here.  I guess I’m just on about Blind Willie McTell right now.  He seems like one of the most courageous beings in our American History.  Can you imagine being black and blind in the 1930’s, in Georgia, the American South, and stepping out of your door of your rural community, and just setting off, by yourself, for New York or Chicago….without your iphone, your gps, or YOUR EYES!

I’m reading a book about Willie right now, and will review it here soon. It’s called Hand Me Down My Travelin‘ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell, by Michael Gray.  This is not just for blues fans; this is for people who want to be inspired, and learn a little about the times of Willie McTell.

But for right now, I’ll leave you with this, my version of one of Blind Willie’s most famous numbers, The Statesboro Blues.  Although, for this youtube version, not all the verses are included, Blind Willie does not really explain what the Statesboro Blues are or why he or other persons that he mentions, have them, but if we do a little historical investigation, and maybe put one and one together, we might be able to suppose.

First of all, I don’t think it would have been very wise of Willie to be at all specific about these blues.  This was not the time or place for black protest songs.  In the history of Georgia, there have occurred over 500 lynchings, and Statesboro was the site of one of the most famous of these, that captured the attention of the whole country.  Two men, in 1904, were burned at the stake in a piney woods (they were both actually turpentine workers) after being accused and “convicted” of murdering a white family.  This craze of violence spread to other blacks who were whipped and tortured for things such as riding a bicycle on the sidewalk; and one man was dragged out of his house whipped, tortured, and killed when he protested the unexplained whipping of his wife three days after giving birth, before things calmed to “normal” again.

There’s so many white people, in our age that have written and sung what are supposedly humorous “blues songs”.  One I just found on Google, as an example, I’ve got them law school graduate blues again, mama.   I don’t think this was the vein that Blind Willie was writing in when he wrote the Statesboro Blues, and I would be willing to bet that in Blind Willie’s Georgia, there were no black folks who had those particular blues.   His blues were something that few of us can even imagine.  Besides that, what law school graduate would use “them” in that title.

Hey, I understand the intended cop on the genre.  I’m not criticizing anybody for having their fun.  I’m just saying that after singing this song for ten years myself, I had no clue what it was about or what it even could have been about.  Doesn’t it feel good when a few roof tiles of ignorance fall off the hard roof that rests on our understanding?

At the end of the song, Willie requests that somebody “reach over in the corner, and hand me my travelin’ shoes”.  Today, we’d probably grab the car keys, but the feeling is the same.  Let’s get the hell out of this place.  I’m sure now that he had his reasons.

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